The perfect New Zealand road trip itinerary

Our words are not enough to describe the beauty and the power of nature in New Zealand. So we filmed moments of our road trip and want to share this with you! We spent a month on our New Zealand road trip itinerary.

Driving is on the left side of the road we drove for 5541km. For practical details and inspirational photos, please refer to our itinerary below. Don’t forget to take a break at least a few times a day and enjoy some picnics and hikes.

And here’s a secret: The idea for the book The Magic of Traveling: Follow the Locals was born somewhere on those roads!

And here’s the video of that perfect road trip we had in New Zealand…

Our New Zealand road trip itinerary

We’ve put together a wonderful 4-week itinerary so we want to share it with you so you can get inspired and hit the road of Aotearoa!

We love the fact that New Zealand is so distant. Even though the trip there took 30+ hours and lots of flying, it is a journey that is totally worth it. Being so far away from… everything means that this Middle-Earth preserved its natural beauty of landscapes and cultures up to a high degree.

Aotearoa is so beautiful that all you need to get a car and drive! Just make sure you can afford many stops and mind-blowing views. Here we share what we experience of each day of each week of our 4-week (during December and January) itinerary. We tried to cover as much as possible from the vast lands of this endlessly fascinating country.

New Zealand road trip, 4 weeks in New Zealand

So, four weeks is a lot of time, so we’ll break down our New Zealand self-drive itineraries here. Basically, we spend 2 weeks on our South Island road trip itinerary and 2 weeks on our North Island road trip itinerary. We started from Auckland, i.e. North Island, then we continued to South Island and even Stewart Island returned the car in Queenstown.

Our North Island road trip itinerary

North Island is definitely the most visited New Zealand island and it really offers so many different sights and activities. We spent about 2 weeks road tripping North Island and we loved it!

Our South Island road trip itinerary

They say New Zealand’s South Island is wilder and more beautiful. We had to go and check for ourselves. We spend 16 days road tripping South Island and even did a detour to Stewart Island. South Island is just as much enjoyable!

Planning a trip to New Zealand

New Zealand is a country that takes the top spot in a lot of bucket lists and dream destinations. How could it not? With its Maori culture, unique flora and fauna, incredible mountain experiences and magnificent views, hobbit stories, and much more it can inspire every person to travel. So, after telling each other stories and sharing dream destinations, one night we decided it is time for The Magic of Traveling to conquer New Zealand. This was the easy part! Now we have to find flights, make up an itinerary, think of a transportation method, accommodation and find answers to many other questions about our New Zealand trip.

planning a trip to the opposite side of the globe - a journey to New Zealand

Flights

We started with the hardest and the most expensive part of the planning – flights.

There were some interesting offers from Western Europe by HolidayPirates, which we missed. We conducted a decent amount of searches on Skyscanner. On one of our next searches for some good flight deals, it turned out we had forgotten to check Istanbul as a starting point. The best offer was found and our plane tickets were bought just a few minutes afterward. China Southern Airlines was going to be the airline that would take us from Istanbul to Auckland with two intermediate stops in China (Urumqi and Guangzhou).

planning a trip to the opposite side of the globe - a journey to New Zealand
This is what you get when you try to book some top attractions as the Milford Sound Cruise at the last minute.

Moving around New Zealand

After a lot of research, it turned out that the best way of transportation there is by renting a vehicle such as a car or a camper van.

We were traveling in New Zealand during the high season so the option to rent a camper van or motorhome and stay at the best campsites in New Zealand was not feasible. We decided to rent a car and chose to do that from a local company that has been awarded the best rent-a-car company two years in a row. Even from the reservation process, we could tell they have earned the awards. They could also book tickets for the ferry that would take us from the North to the South Island.

We read the advice given for the drivers that are used to driving on the right side of the road. We watched a couple of videos, too. That’s how we checked this task was done – we were ready with our transportation in New Zealand.

planning a trip to the opposite side of the globe - a journey to New Zealand
A view from the road, New Zealand

Itinerary planning in New Zealand

This site helped us a lot with our itinerary. We made our own plan by combining some of the not-so-bad offers about journeys on the two islands.
For accommodation, we turned to the usual suspects – Airbnb, Booking.com, and Hostelworld. You can check out this comprehensive guide on accommodation in New Zealand.

Exactly 15 days before our first flight we got an email, saying our flight has been canceled and we should contact an agent to make a decision on what we should do. This process was mediated by trip.bg. It wasn’t good. We got postponed for a week and we had to start speaking way louder in order for them to start doing something. We ended up with the same flights the next day. Of course, for us, this meant more expenses. That included a flight from Sofia – Istanbul – Sofia, a night in Istanbul, a couple of extra nights in Auckland, and some stress. However, nothing can stop us and it looks like we have overcome all the obstacles. We are already in Istanbul, excited for our 3-hour journey to New Zealand.

If you’re still wondering if you should plan that trip to New Zealand, here are some things you should know about the country that will probably make you want to go there immediately!

Transport, activities, and accommodation in New Zealand

This blog post contains some affiliate links to services and products we like. If you book through those links, we’ll get a small commission at no extra cost for you. Thank you for helping us keep The Magic of Traveling going!

Accommodation pie chart – Airbnb (15 nights) / hotels (3 nights) / hostels,motels (8 nights). Average price per night – 46 euros for a double room. Almost all of them included a kitchen available, and some of them offered breakfast. Everywhere we slept in our own room, and most of the time toilets were shared. Here you can find many hotels and hostels on the North Island, and accommodation on South Island is here.

Food: 2/3 of the lunches and dinners were out at cafes, restaurants, etc. the other 1/3 were prepared at home or consumed in a picnic environment. Most of the breakfasts were cooked home or eaten on the way somewhere. Tap water is drinkable almost everywhere and it actually tastes good. Artisan and farmers’ markets are affordable ways to taste the best the land of Aotearoa can produce.

Transport inland: mostly our Nissan Tiida (a.k.a. Jumpie), which we drove for 5541 km. We rented it from day 3 in Auckland to day 26 in Queenstown and the total cost including full insurance and a GPS was 1982 NZD including the Interislander ferry from North Island to South Island.

We used a ferry from South Island to Stewart Island and back, and a domestic flight from Queenstown to Auckland. Sailed many boats and ships for both sightseeing and transportation purposes and even spent a night on a boat.

Transport to New Zealand: a 900-euro flight (28h/35h return) from Istanbul to Auckland with two layovers in China.

Essential bookings – having in mind we were in the summer holiday season, we were happy that we had booked the ferry, accommodation in popular places, a whale watching trip, and the Milford Sound cruise.

So those were our planning a trip to New Zealand and our itineraries in New Zealand for one month – from “Kia ora!” to “Haere rā!E noho rā!”.

We’re so happy with our time road tripping New Zealand so we’re definitely coming back there! Is there a spot you’d recommend to us? Let us know!

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